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Believe in the Harmony of Data & Intuition

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

Dr. Maya Angelou

Deliberate First Impressions: Giving and Getting

In anticipation of starting a new job, delivering a presentation to the board or meeting company officers for the first time, we often think carefully about making the right first impression. We are thoughtful about how we present ourselves – our attire, our mannerisms, being a good listener, communicating intended key points, etc.

When we meet others or interview candidates, for example, we are assessing the first impression they make – both consciously and subconsciously. Particularly during interviews, our senses are alert for both data and intuition indicating “red flags.”

Behavioral Disconnect

So, why is it that if we are so conscious of first impressions (ones we make and those made by others), that we often disregard outlying clues or symptoms that we observe that should raise caution in our minds?

Leaders often consciously seek the alert for red flag behaviors but then subconsciously rationalize or discount those behaviors away citing “giving people the benefit of the doubt.”

Consider the Consequences

Consider the cost associated with ignoring or discounting the red flags. Have you ever hired a candidate who didn’t work out and later realized that there were visible indicators during the interview process that you should have caught and should have influenced your hiring decision? Are there colleagues in whom you’ve placed trust or with whom you collaborated who disappointed you later but who had previously given you pause? Are there people to whom you’ve “taken the leap of faith” or “seen potential in” and assigned projects or otherwise empowered and relied on, only to have failed to deliver?

Value Your Internal Alert System

Our internal alert system exists for a reason – to help us avoid negative outcomes and race towards success. This alert system using data and experience, in the form of intuition, has evolved over time, across numerous experiences which have shaped and reshaped our thinking as we learn and experience more.

Wise Words

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to hear Maya Angelou speak at my freshman year convocation at #Duke. Dr. Angelou was an amazing orator and imparted great wisdom. Her seemingly simple statements connotate great insight. She has said:

“When someone shows you who they are,

believe them the first time.”

Maya Angelou

Most often, this quote is mentioned in the context of interpersonal relationships (i.e., outside of work or business settings), but business itself relies on a complex network of interpersonal relationships. And Dr. Angelou’s quote wholeheartedly applies to business as well.

The Reality

The reality is that we can’t discount every relationship when one thing gives us pause…unless that one thing is a big enough deal. And, we can’t stop seeing potential in people to do more or be more than we currently see. As leaders, we inherently assess and strategically take risk. But our decisions about which risks to take should be thoughtful, informed and deliberate, a product of both data and intuition. We have to keep our eyes open (data) and leverage what experience has taught us (intuition), particularly the indicators from our internal alert system.

Multiple red flags, repeated bad behavior or red flags that seem significant enough should be recognized and accepted no matter what your emotions may be trying to rationalize away. Set you and your teams up for success, save yourself the hassle of a bad decision and avoid the negative consequences -- simply put thanks to Dr. Angelou,

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

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Lisa Andrade is founder and CEO of M33, an executive coaching and leadership development company proven in both the “executive” and “coaching” in executive coaching. M33 leverages the art of leadership and advanced leadership science to create an executive blueprint tailored to you and your organization. For an initial consultation with Lisa, contact M33 at

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